The Beginnings of Volunteer Tourism

"Volunteer tourism" is widely understood to have originated primarily in Western Europe, specifically the United Kingdom, before the trend expanded to other parts of world with similar demographics, for example Australia and the United States.Today, significant anecdotal evidence suggests that countries across Europe make a considerable contribution to the supply chain of people, money and resources that continue to sustain and foster the orphanage industry worldwide.

As the linkages between the growth in the number of orphanages worldwide and the booming orphanage voluntourism trade become more apparent, it became clear that more attention needed to be given to European countries and the role they play in the institutionalisation of children overseas.

In response, the second  ReThink Orphanages regional hubs was established in 2017, in Europe, bringing together a core group of organisations and individuals from the UK, France, Germany and Switzerland. 

Research has identified the UK as the second largest country, behind the USA, for sending volunteers to orphanages. 

ReThink Orphanages Europe works with volunteer organisations serving the gap year market to encourage them to reconsider their policy on orphanage volunteering. A growing number have ceased orphanage volunteering in recent years.

This includes the Year Out Group, an association of accredited gap year providers in the UK, which has pledged that it will no longer support orphanage volunteering. We are supporting the Year Out Group and ts members to responsibly transition away from their relationships with orphanages, to ensure that children are not left vulnerable in the process. Contact us to find out more about the support we can offer to travel and tourism operators.

A number of universities have pledged not to support volunteering in orphanages abroad.

The University Pledge has been designed as a collaboration between London School of Economics Volunteer Centre and ReThink Orphanages and calls on higher or further education institutions to not advertise or facilitate the promotion of orphanage volunteering on their premises. Sign up now.

A review of the UK's Modern Slavery Act in the UK could see 

The UK has recently announced a review of its Modern Slavery Act

It is hoped that the UK Home Office will follow Australia's lead and recognise orphanage trafficking as a form of modern slavery as it reviews the Modern Slavery Act which came into force in 2015. This move could lead to the regulation of activities and supply chains which involve orphanages. In summer 2017, Penny Mordaunt MP, Secretary of State for International Development announced at the Global Disability Summit in London her commitment to the long-term plan to ensure all children grow up with a family of their own, a move much welcomed by members of the ReThink Orphanages European Hub. 

A better way to care

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